(Editor's note: This is the latest in an occasional series of retro Orioles game recaps that we are posting through the off-season. They are either games that were significant in O's history, or just significant to one of our writers. We travel back in time to 1988 to look back at the first win in that disastrous season.)
Folks, our long national nightmare is over. After going 0-21 to start the season and seeing their manager Cal Ripken, Sr. get the boot, the Orioles have finally won a game.
The afternoon started off auspiciously enough. In the top of the first, Cal Ripken, Jr. singled and Eddie Murray blasted a 3-2 pitch over the fence to put the Orioles up 2-0. For the next several innings, that's where the score would remain as O's starter Mark Williamson and Sox hurler Jack McDowell traded scoreless (and nearly hitless) innings. Still, the way the O's have been playing lately, I'm sure fans everywhere expected yet another series of disappointments leading to another loss.
Yet the Orioles seemed ready and eager to break out of their slump. They put a runner aboard in the second, two on in the third, and another on the fourth without scoring. Meanwhile, Williamson gave up just a single in the first to Harold Baines and a single in the fourth to White Sox right fielder Ivan Calderon.
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Ripken's six-hit day
Before there was the 30-3 game, the Orioles beat down the Braves, 22-1, in the 1999 season. Cal Ripken had six hits.
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The Birds broke through again in the fifth. Pete Stanicek led off with a single and then stole second base while Billy Ripken was at the plate. Ripken ended up lining out to Calderon, but it was a productive out as Stanicek tagged up and moved to third base. A few pitches later, McDowell bounced one to Cal Ripken and Stanicek sped home to make it 3-0. Ripken himself ultimately doubled but Murray and Fred Lynn couldn't bring him home. Still, the game was more than halfway over and with the way Williamson was pitching, you figure at least some of the Orioles fans liked their chances enough to perk up a bit.
Williamson put together a 1-2-3 fifth and sixth, but he wasn't needed after that because the Orioles sealed a win with a huge inning in the top of the seventh. Joe Orsulak led off with a walk and Stanicek doubled him home on the second pitch he saw, making it 4-0 Orioles. John Davis replaced McDowell on the mound and immediately hit Billy Ripken in the head with a pitch. Ripken was carried off the field; we can only hope he's okay. Tito Landrum pinch-ran for him and Stanicek moved into scoring position. Cal Ripken then grounded out to third base, or so it seemed; Ken Williams, who it must be said is usually an outfielder, threw the ball away, allowing Stanicek to score and moving Landrum to third. (You'd think Williams could generally manage to throw the ball in the right direction.) The O's were now up by five and it seemed even more likely they'd come away with a victory.
They weren't done yet. Murray was up next and reached base when he hit a grounder to first baseman Greg Walker, who immediately threw home to get Stanicek for the first out. Lynn then walked to load the bases. Larry Sheets got into the act when the White Sox tried but failed to get an out on a grounder; as a result, Ripken scored, Murray moved to third base, Lynn moved to second, and Sheets was safe at first.
It was 6-0 Orioles and looking good, but the team wasn't done yet. They scored once more in the inning when Terry Kennedy hit a sacrifice fly. Craig Worthington ended the threat when he hit a grounder and Sheets was forced out at second.
All told, the O's tallied just one clean hit in the inning but turned it into four runs. With a 7-0 lead, Frank Robinson elected to pull Williamson in favor of Dave Schmidt, who took the game the rest of the way. The Orioles scored two more "insurance" runs in the top of the ninth against Sox relief ace Bobby Thigpen.
And with that the city of Baltimore can finally exhale and breathe regularly again. No, the Orioles probably won't do well this season overall, but at least they've gotten into the win column for the year. We should also acknowledge this victory in terms of the team's new manager. Hall of Famer and Orioles great Frank Robinson didn't have the best start to his Orioles managing career, but at least now he can say he's won a game with the team that he did so much for. Here's hoping there are many more wins to come.
The Orioles and White Sox meet again tomorrow, with Mark Thurmond hoping to make it two straight Orioles victories. He'll be opposed on the hill by Ricky Horton.